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Jay Connaway and the Landscape of New England

September 19 - December 6, 2009

 

The Portland Museum of Art is exploring the art of Jay Hall Connaway (1893-1970) in the first major museum exhibition since his death. Moods of Nature: Jay Connaway and the Landscape of New England, on view September 19 through December 6, 2009, features 40 rarely seen works from private collections in Maine and Massachusetts. A student of the sky, waves, and snow-covered hills of Maine and Vermont, Jay Connaway belonged to the generation that presented the region as timeless and quiet in the face of modernity and ensured that the image of New England maintained a prominent role in the American imagination.

Connaway enjoyed a reputation as one of the most promising young marine painters of the 1920s. Prolific, well-known, and highly regarded both as an artist and a teacher, Connaway moved to Maine in 1922 and took up permanent residence on Monhegan Island with his wife Louise in 1931. For 17 years, Connaway observed and painted the ocean and its many moods in the tradition of Winslow Homer and Rockwell Kent before moving to Vermont in 1947 where he lived out his life.

Born in Indiana, Connaway studied in New York City at the Arts Students League under William Merritt Chase before interrupting his studies to volunteer for service in the First World War. Upon discharge from the army, Connaway studied in Paris at the Académie Julian and the École des Beaux-Arts before returning to the United States and settling in New England. Sticking to his guns as abstraction gained in popularity in the years after World War II, Connaway's bold brushwork and subtle palate served as hallmarks of his unique style of masculine impressionism.

Connaway enjoyed close to 90 one-man shows in his lifetime. He was elected an associate of the National Academy of Design in 1933 and a full academician in 1943. His work was exhibited at the leading galleries of his day, including Macbeth, Vose, Kennedy, and Doll & Richards. In his own lifetime Connaway's vision of the landscape of New England could be found hanging at the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Corcoran Gallery of Art, and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

 

Wall panel text for the exhibition

Jay Connaway (1893-1970) used to hang a sign on the door of his studio on Monhegan Island -- "I am working," it read, "Go thou and do likewise." The sentiment speaks volumes about the artist's work ethic. Prolific, well-known, and highly-regarded as both an artist and a teacher, Connaway enjoyed a reputation as one of the most promising young marine painters of the 1920s. Inspired by Winslow Homer and Rockwell Kent, Connaway moved to Maine in 1922 and took up permanent residence on Monhegan with his wife Louise in 1931. For 16 years, Connaway observed and painted the ocean and its many moods before moving to Vermont in 1947 where he lived out his life.
 
Connaway's immersion in the landscape of New England belies his Midwestern roots and international life experiences. A son of Indiana, he served in World War I and studied in New York City under William Merritt Chase and in Paris at the Académie Julian before returning to native soil and eventually landing in Maine. Sticking to his guns as abstraction achieved a dominant position in American visual culture after World War II, Connaway employed bold brushwork and a subtle palette to create a unique style of muscular impressionism. A student of the sky, waves, and snow-covered hills, Connaway belonged to the generation that presented the region as timeless in spite of the changes wrought by modern life and ensured that the image of New England maintained a prominent role in the American imagination.
 
 

Selected images of objects in the exhibition

 

(above: Jay Hall Connaway (United States, 1893-1970), October Sea, 1939, oil on artist's board, 20 x 29 3/4 inches (board). From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne).)

 

(above: Jay Hall Connaway (United States, 1893-1970), Ketchum's View Dorset, 1949, oil on artist's board, 20 1/4 x 30 3/8 inches (board). From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne).)

 

 

(above: Jay Hall Connaway (United States, 1893-1970), Maine, 1952, oil on masonite, 24 x 30 inches. Lent by David and Patsy Bischoff.)

 

 

(above: Jay Hall Connaway (United States, 1893-1970), Monhegan Dock - Low Tide, nd, oil on board, 27 1/2 x 23 1/2 inches. Private collection. )

 

Checklist for the exhibition

All work by Jay Hall Connaway (United States, 1893-1970).
 
1. A Clouds Burst, nd, oil on panel, 15 1/4 x 19 5/8 inches.Gift of Owen W. and Anna H. Wells, 2001.83.7.
 
2. Bold Blue Sea, nd, oil on masonite, 20 x 29 7/8 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.30.
 
3. Bondville Vermont, Winter, nd, oil on masonite, 23 3/4 x 30 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.27.
 
4. Coastal Spray, nd, oil on masonite, 24 x 36 inches (board). From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.10.
 
5. End of Winter Day - Pawlet, 1968, oil on artist's board, 19 x 29 3/8 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.22.
 
6. Green Point Monhegan, Maine, nd, oil on masonite, 20 x 30 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.38.
 
7. Green Wave - Breaking, nd, oil on canvas board, 17 7/8 x 23 3/4 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.41.
 
8. Heaving Sea - Sundown, nd, oil on board, 16 x 20 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.34.
 
9. Ketchum's View Dorset, 1949, oil on artist's board, 20 1/4 x 30 3/8 inches (board). From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.2.
 
10. Maine, 1952, oil on masonite, 24 x 30 inches (frame). Lent by David and Patsy Bischoff, EX8.2009.3.
 
11. Maine Blue Sea, nd, oil on masonite, 38 x 28 inches. Lent by Mary Louise Hamill, EX8.2009.4.1.
 
12. Manana Coast, nd, oil on masonite, 29 3/4 x 47 7/8 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.19.
 
13. Monhegan, 1937, oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches. Lent by William D. Hamill, EX8.2009.4.2.
 
14. Monhegan Blue Sea, 1950, oil on masonite, 16 x 20 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.36.
15. Monhegan Dock - Low Tide, nd, oil on board, 27 1/2 x 23 1/2 inches (frame). Private collection, EX8.2009.2.3.
 
16. Monhegan Dock - Summer, nd, oil on canvas board, 12 x 16 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.42.
 
17. Monhegan Seas, 1940, oil on masonite, 20 x 29 3/4 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.37.
 
18. Monhegan Storm, nd, oil on board, 12 1/2 x 18 inches. Private collection, EX8.2009.2.4.
 
19. My Island, 1926, oil on board, 14 1/8 x 19 3/8 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.28.
 
20. October Sea, 1939, oil on artist's board, 20 x 29 3/4 inches (board). From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.4.
 
21. Pawlet by Moonlight, nd, oil on artist's board, 20 1/4 x 16 3/4 (board). From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.1.
 
22. Pawlet, Vermont, 1948, oil on board, 16 x 20 1/8 inches. W. M. Scwhind, Jr. Antiques & Fine Art, EX8.2009.5.
 
23. Rain and Sky, 1962, oil on board, 21 x 25 inches. Collection of Eliot and Melanie Cutler, EX8.2009.7.
 
24. Roberts Farm, Dorset Hollow, nd, oil on artist's board, 15 7/8 x 20 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.43.
 
25. Seascape, nd, oil on board, 19 x 23 inches (frame). Private collection, EX8.2009.2.2.
 
26. Sea Sketch, 1960, oil on masonite, 18 x 23 7/8 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.39.
 
27. Spray at Lobster Cove, 1966, oil on canvas board, 12 x 16 inches (board). From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.12
 
28. Stormy Sky - Manana, nd, oil on masonite, 26 x 38 inches (frame). Private collection, EX8.2009.2.1.
 
29. Summer Choppy Sea, nd, oil on artist's board, 18 x 23 3/4 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.32.
 
31. Summer Seas, nd, oil on artist's board, 14 x 20 inches (board). From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.3.
 
32. Summer Seas and Skies, nd, oil on board, 23 x 15 1/2 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.26.
 
33. Sunlit Sea - Lobster Cove, nd, oil on masonite, 17 3/4 x 23 3/4 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.20.
 
34. Top of the Mountain, nd, oil on canvas, 32 x 40 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.40.
 
35. Tree Group, nd, oil on masonite, 12 x 16 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.17.
 
36. Vermont Blue Hill, nd, oil on artist's board, 9 x 12 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.31.
 
37. View of Monhegan, nd, oil on canvas, 26 x 36 inches (frame). Lent by Merle and Lenny Nelson, EX8.2009.6.2.
 
38. Winter's Blast - Pawlet, Vermont, nd, oil on masonite, 19 7/8 x 29 5/8 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.35.
 
39. Winter Mountains, Vermont, nd, oil on canvas board, 20 1/2 x 16 1/2 inches. From the collection of Mrs. Marjorie B. Osborne (Mrs. Gordon Osborne), EX8.2009.1.18.

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